A 10-man Melbourne Victory saw off Adelaide United on Saturday night and coach Kevin Muscat couldn't be happier with his side's gutsy performance.
Kevin Muscat has labelled Melbourne Victory's 3-0 win over Adelaide 'exceptional' and marvelled at his team's ability to maintain their structure with 10 men in the second half.
Victory's head coach was left frustrated by how the home side let Adelaide back into the contest following Kosta Barbarouses' opening goal - his first-ever for Melbourne - in the 14th minute at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
But after Victory defender Adrian Leijer was sent off in first-half stoppage time, Muscat was thrilled by his team's effort in the second period as they weathered a storm of shots and a penalty from the Reds, and struck twice on the break.
Muscat, however, maintained Melbourne cannot rely on effort alone.
"I thought all in all, apart from the 20 to 25 minute spell before half-time, we were exceptional tonight," the 40-year-old coach said after the match.
"Started very well and then let them back into the game, which was disappointing in the first half. It was disappointing, (I) wasn't happy coming out of half-time.
"But in the second half, not only with a man down, we still tried to play, we got the ball down, got in behind them a number of times and the effort was tremendous in the second half.
"But I don't just want to win games with effort. I want to understand why we win games; how we play and through our structures, I want to understand how we win games. But tonight the effort was superb, coupled with some good football and some good goals."
While Muscat hinted that he still needs to work on his tactical understanding and ability to tweak his team's structure to ensure success, the former Victory skipper bristled at suggestions Melbourne had played long-ball, counter-attacking football to breach Adelaide's high defensive line.
During Muscat's time as captain, under former head coach Ernie Merrick, Melbourne won two A-League doubles on the back of a counter-attacking style, which took advantage of the speed of Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp.
Victory's focus against Adelaide seemed to be to attack quickly with direct passes in behind the visitors' back four but Muscat denied it was a long-ball style, before adding his team missed some opportunities to do it more often.
"From my perspective, if a pass goes - however big a distance it is - if a pass makes your player a favourite, it's not a long ball, it's a long pass," Muscat said.
"So as long as you make your team the favourite, you're not kicking it to a contest, it's not a long ball...there were opportunities in the first half that I don't think we actually turned them (Adelaide's defenders) around quick enough.
"In the second half, we were a man down, there's obvious less passing options and we created a number of chances, getting in behind them. So from that perspective, we go down to 10 men, I don't know what happened, but we actually played to the structure a little bit better."
Muscat also praised Barbarouses for breaking his scoring duck with the Big V and claimed the Kiwi forward should improve further with New Zealand's World Cup qualifying campaign now over.
"Tremendous," Muscat said of Barbarouses.
"He's been good for us right throughout (the season).
"I just think from his perspective as well, he's disappointed, obviously, not qualifying for the World Cup but...he can settle down now and not travel and not go away and not play games for the international team."